Charles Jeffrey Loverboy has bagged its first investor.
Tomorrow, the showroom-turned-brand accelerator, has acquired a “sizable” minority stake in the six-year-old brand, Tomorrow CEO Stefano Martinetto told BoF, declining to disclose the financial terms of the deal.
Since launch, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy has garnered a small but engaged following for designs celebrating gender-queer youth culture and its Glaswegian founder’s love of hedonistic nightlife.
“You feel the energy is there,” said Martinetto. “We recognise thought leaders and polymaths who are creative directors and can create above and beyond a single brand.”
Tomorrow, whose stable of labels includes A-Cold-Wall*, Coperni, Colville and Athletics Footwear, offers emerging labels shared services across business verticals like product development, manufacturing and distribution.
It isn’t alone in its approach.
In recent years, a number of brand platforms have built a new model for bringing high-potential emerging labels to market, including Luca Benini’s Slam Jam, New Guards Group and Dover Street Market Paris.
Each has its own specific strategy: some, like Tomorrow, take equity stakes in the brands they supports, while others, like DSM Paris, take a commission on sales. But they all provide services that help emerging labels overcome the challenges of operating independently in a market that is more complex and competitive than ever before.
Over the past year, the pandemic has added to the pressures facing young labels, pushing many to breaking point. Not only has consumer demand crashed, but the multi-brand retailers on which emerging labels typically depend for distribution are themselves under stress. For British labels like Loverboy, Brexit has only amplified challenges.
Jeffrey said his team of five had “hit a glass ceiling” in terms of growth. But selling out to scale up was not an option for the designer. “I’m always striving for authenticity and everything that I do,” he said. “I don’t think [Loverboy] needs to be this huge brand; I think it just needs to be something that is self sufficient.”
For Martinetto, niche labels with authentic followings is exactly where opportunity lies.
“I’m not sure you can create a $1 billion business anymore. And I don’t think the world needs another $1 billion business from scratch,” he said. “I think you can put together a number of relatively tiny but yet significant businesses which are relevant in their own way and they keep longevity.”
The metric here is relevance; it’s not size.
“The metric here is relevance; it’s not size,” he added. “Relevance gives you 50 years of longevity, size gives you six years of hype.”
Loverboy began as a queer East London club night run by Jeffrey while studying for his fashion MA at Central Saint Martins. The designer began showing at London Fashion Week in 2015 as part of non-profit talent incubator Fashion East, garnering high praise from fashion critics. Soon, the brand got picked up by sought-after stockists like Dover Street Market, Boon the Shop and Matches Fashion.
Tomorrow’s support will allow Jeffrey to focus on creative direction and marketing. “It’s not just about the investment in terms of cash, it’s about what Tomorrow can give us on a more structural scale,” said Jeffrey.
The label aims to grow by offering more accessible price points and expanding in China and the US. Building out the team and expansion into new categories like underwear and accessories are also on the cards. But neither Jeffrey nor Martinetto are in any rush.
“One piece at a time; we’re under no hurry whatsoever,” said Martinetto. “There’s no one running after us so we have to reach $100 million in 15 minutes. We will do the right things at the right time.”